And the minarets burned like candles…
It’s like the scenario from the old Will Hay film Where’s That Fire?. A dismal, incompetent fire crew are given the directive to round into form and actually quell a blaze or else lose their jobs. Coming out just before the German bombardment of London, it was prescient. In the film, despite the most valiant effort they could muster, they fail and have their barely serviceable fire engine pinched by thieves who attempt to steal the Crown Jewels. Similarly, the below photo taken in 1869 in Instanbul seems more about the aesthetics of fire fighting than actual mastering of the conflagration.
In Penny Lane there is a fireman with an hourglass
And in his pocket is a portrait of the Queen.
He likes to keep his fire engine clean
It’s a clean machine
The as now, there is an overriding temptation to discern god’s will in the wake of natural disaster:
(see link at end)…On 24 July 1660, a great conflagration broke out in Istanbul. An Ottoman writer conveys the horror of the event: “[t]housands of homes and households burned with fire. And in accordance with God’s eternal will, God changed the distinguishing marks of night and day by making the very dark night luminous with flames bearing sparks, and darkening the light-filled day with black smoke and soot.” The fire began in a store that sold straw products outside the appropriately named Firewood Gate (Odun kapisi) west of Eminönü, and it devastated densely crowded neighborhoods consisting of wooden homes. The strong winds of Istanbul caused the fire to spread violently in all directions, despite the efforts of the deputy grand vizier (kaimmakam) and others who attempted the impossible task of holding it back with hooks, axes, and water carriers. Sultan Mehmed IV’s boon companion and chronicler, Abdi Pasa, notes that the fire marched across the city like an invading army: the flames “split into divisions, and every single division, by the decree of God, spread to a different district.” The fire spread north, west, and to Unkapani. According to Mehmed Halife, in Süleymaniye the spires of the four minarets of the great mosque burned like candles. The blaze reached Bayezid and then moved south and west to Davud Pasa, Kumkapi, and even as far west as Samatya. The flames did not spare the Hippodrome (At Meydani) in the east or Mahmud Pasa and the markets at the center of the peninsula, either. Abdi Pasa estimated that the fire reduced 280,000 households to ashes as the city burned for exactly forty-nine hours. Two-thirds of Istanbul was destroyed in the conflagration, and as many as 40,000 people lost their lives. Although fire was a frequent occurrence in 17th-century Istanbul, this was the worst the city had ever experienced. Thousands died in the plague that followed the fire as rats feasted on unburied corpses and spread disease. Read More:http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract;jsessionid=79DEA358C4C36A39B2BA1E37EC8A019C.journals?fromPage=online&aid=243050